Lessons with God
By Katrina Spinger
On a Sunday morning several years ago, I walked into the sanctuary at my local church during the praise and worship portion of the service. It had taken everything within me to muster up the energy to get out of bed, get myself dressed, and make the commute to a place I once viewed as my safe haven, my shelter - a place where I could just breathe. However, life had brought about changes, impacting my world in such a way that I knew it would never be the same again – I would never be the same again.
As I made my way up the stairs to the balcony, worshipers all around me were up on their feet leaping, shouting in acclamation, and clapping their hands in seemingly sincere celebration. I stopped at the top of the stairs searching for a seat away from the front row of seats in the balcony, one that was inconspicuous and one in which I could hide. I navigated through the crowd as others stood around me in exuberant corporate participation. I took my seat.
Consumed with frustration I had brought with me, I sat and observed while pondering the questions that ran rapidly through my mind. “God, why am I here? What is all the hoopla about? How long is all this going to take? How much of this is really necessary anyway?”
As my eyes filled with tears, I could not understand why during a time when I should have felt the most enthused, energetic, and demonstrative about my spiritual walk, I sat lethargically discouraged with a deep sense of dissatisfaction and hopelessly questioning my salvation and my purpose. “God what has happened to me? Why do I feel this way? How did I get here?” I had been a Christian for years. I had served and held leadership positions in various areas of ministry. And, up until this point in my life, I really believed that I had a strong relationship with the Lord.
However, here I sat more agitated, aggravated, and discombobulated than I had ever felt in my entire life. To make matters worse, I felt the weight of tremendous guilt associated with keeping up a façade and wearing the proverbial mask to lead others to believe I really had myself together. Therefore, those same feelings evoked in me a sense that I was the only one who was going through (or who had ever gone through) this experience.
Within a matter of months my marriage had failed, and my father, whom I adored, had gone on to be with the Lord. As a result of those tumultuous transitions in my life, I was now a single mother of two, working two part-time jobs, going to school in the evenings to earn my bachelor’s degree, and now back at home living with my mother. I felt scrutinized and unjustifiably judged by many of those I had served with in ministry. My whole soul was shaken by my grief and loss.
“Broken” was a nice way of putting what I felt at the core of my being. It seemed that everything in me hurt. Inhaling and exhaling no longer felt like a normal body function for me. Instead it had become an agonizing, laborious act of survival. I never imagined that the vicissitudes of life could wound me to the extent that I could literally take it or leave it. But the shifts in my life had beaten up on my will to the degree that there seemed to be no recovery from the trauma. Like Peter, I felt as though Jesus Himself had given Satan permission to sift me as wheat, but I was not sure if anyone was praying that my faith would not fail me.
Therefore, in the midst of this huge congregation of people, I felt more alone than ever before, and I was angry. As a matter of fact, at that very moment I felt as though I could have stood up in the middle of the service, walked down the aisle to the front of the sanctuary, asked the worship leader to hand me the microphone, and screamed at the top of my lungs, “Shut up! Everybody just shut up and sit down right now!”
Yet, one truth remained. I love God. Not just some of me, but every part of me. We have been together for a long time. I have history with Him. So instead of carrying out my plot to blindside the worship leader, in that service in the midst of my personal despair, in a last act of desperation, I found a quiet place in my depleted spirit, and I asked God to help me. And during this deep lamentation, I heard His still small voice, “Now that I finally have your attention, let me teach you something.”
It was at that moment I realized God had orchestrated that place of barrenness and despondency in me because He had something He wanted me to learn. My inner turmoil was directly related to the private lessons He desired to teach me. In that faraway balcony seat, He showed me that the vast emptiness I had been feeling for months – that wilderness place -- was actually a lesson in understanding the process by which I was becoming an “empty” vessel in preparation for His use.
This is for You: Consider the definition of a “private lesson.” It is, “a course of instruction that is unique to the student that only he or she can learn through study or experience, and takes place separate from the company of observation of others.” A description of a private lesson for a student of dance stated, “Taking dance lessons is a good way to learn choreography of a form, but individualized instruction is necessary if a student wishes to advance to higher levels. A private session with a perspective teacher is one of the best ways to accelerate your personal progress.”
And so it is with God. When He knows our sincere desire to go to the next level, He does not leave us as we are. As our perceptive teacher, He moves us out of the average and the status quo. He guides us through the process of unlearning behaviors which have the potential to sabotage our purpose and ultimately impact our destiny. In His sovereignty, He leads us into wilderness experiences that are unique to us so He can teach us the lessons that will accelerate our personal and spiritual progress.
Why? The reasons are simple:
- He wants to demonstrate what He has accomplished in us as a result of His individualized attention and instruction in our lives.
- He wants our lives to manifest the excellence that is only obtained through one-on-one sessions with Him.
Though God’s private lessons for us may be filled with the good, the bad, and sometimes even the ugly, the true beauty of surrendering to His tutelage is that in the classroom of learning, we become more and more a vessel He can use. It is extremely important to God that we learn from our private lessons so that He can trust us when He releases us for our public performance. Our response should be, “Where do I sign up?”